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"The work of yakkers and tweeters and braggers..."
September 13, 2013 5:50 PM   Subscribe

Jonathan Franzen: what's wrong with the modern world. [The Guardian]
posted by Fizz (89 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite

 
Whereas, when you're working on some clunky, utilitarian PC, the only thing to enjoy is the quality of your work itself. As Kraus says of Germanic life, the PC "sobers" what you're doing; it allows you to see it unadorned. This was especially true in the years of DOS operating systems and early Windows.
/closes tab

Was this meant to be some kind of satire on "White late Boomer doesn't get it with the kids these days?, wishes things remained more like when he came of age"? 'cos I feel like I've read that article a bunch of times.

And I liked The Corrections.
posted by pmv at 5:54 PM on September 13, 2013 [10 favorites]


"The work of yakkers and tweeters and braggers..."

Jonathan Franzen is beginning to sound suspiciously like a Bill Cosby bit.
posted by scody at 6:05 PM on September 13, 2013 [32 favorites]


As someone said on Twitter, '"Jonathan Franzen: what's wrong with the modern world" is in many ways the perfect headline'.

(And I'd link directly to the tweet itself, if Twitter weren't so goddamned determined to control how Tweets appear everywhere that they hide permalinks. Fuck you, Twitter.)
posted by asterix at 6:07 PM on September 13, 2013 [13 favorites]


Cage fight with Anil dash. The "cage" is a cinema showing Jiro Dreams of Sushi. The audience turns on them both.
posted by Artw at 6:08 PM on September 13, 2013 [13 favorites]


Oh wait, here we go.
posted by asterix at 6:08 PM on September 13, 2013


Send Umberto Eco the check, or part of it, at least.
posted by thelonius at 6:10 PM on September 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


Kraus spent a lot of time reading stuff he hated, so as to be able to hate it with authority.

Hey, mister, I think I found your problem.

It's not clear that Kraus's shrill, ex cathedra denunciations were the most effective way to change hearts and minds.

That's one way to put it.

"Acid wants the gleam, and the rust says it's only being corrosive."

OK, that quote made the whole thing worth reading.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 6:14 PM on September 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


These anti-Internet pieces are the middlebrow equivalent of an alt-weekly Juggalo Gathering feature. They are typically lazy, self-satisfied, and unencumbered by any actual research or knowledge (at least the alt-weekly writer makes an effort to find out something, before filing the story).

I lived a lot of my adult life before social media, which I do actually kind of hate. The world was well-stocked with self-centered, ignorant bastards then, too; it's not like we all sat around reciting Chaucer and nursing baby animals back to health.
posted by thelonius at 6:17 PM on September 13, 2013 [49 favorites]


"The new infernal machine seems increasingly to obey nothing but its own developmental logic, and it's far more enslavingly addictive, and far more pandering to people's worst impulses, than newspapers ever were," printed the Guardian.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 6:31 PM on September 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'm unclear:

Does the fact I read this on my smartphone, and that I could have chosen at the end to tweet it, or share it on Facebook or Google Plus count as irony in this case? Or is just a sign of how weird this world has gotten, that I can read an essay about the horrible influence of technology on society using the technology being decried?

As with all tools, our devices can cut both ways and be used for both good or ill.
posted by nubs at 6:31 PM on September 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


I did the work late in the afternoon, after six or seven hours of writing short stories, in the bedroom of the little Somerville apartment that my wife and I were renting for $300 a month.
*weeps openly*
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 6:35 PM on September 13, 2013 [17 favorites]


I actually started to read it on an iPad, felt a little too cool. Opened it on my WP8 Lumia 920, a bit better but not much. Had to go on ebay to buy a Zune HD, so I'll be back in 18h and 26m plus the time it takes to ship.
posted by Ad hominem at 6:41 PM on September 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


Actually, the more I think about it, I think I need to read this on a Compaq Portable III with Norton Commander.
posted by Ad hominem at 6:47 PM on September 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


with a front line assembly sticker below the space bar and an apple sticker on the compaq logo
posted by Teakettle at 6:49 PM on September 13, 2013 [9 favorites]


nubs: "Does the fact I read this on my smartphone, and that I could have chosen at the end to tweet it, or share it on Facebook or Google Plus count as irony in this cas"

No, but the fact that an American author wrote an op-ed for a British newspaper that was distributed digitally back to an American readership probably does.
posted by Apropos of Something at 7:02 PM on September 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Kraus was known, in his day, to his many enemies, as the Great Hater.

Right. Today on metafilter he is the Great Thread Pooper.
posted by bukvich at 7:04 PM on September 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


I keep forgetting to be annoyed by Franzen, I wish he'd stop reminding me.
posted by emjaybee at 7:07 PM on September 13, 2013 [9 favorites]


Your opinion is fascinating, I would like to subscribe to your newsletter.
posted by fungible at 7:12 PM on September 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Your opinion is fascinating, I would like to subscribe to your newsletter follow your Tumblr. (FTFY)
posted by oneswellfoop at 7:18 PM on September 13, 2013


This.
posted by Fizz at 7:18 PM on September 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


Learning a fair bit about the Mongolian Empire has really made me feel better about any apocalyptic ranting these days.
posted by Navelgazer at 7:33 PM on September 13, 2013


Without modern technology, I'd have far fewer people and ways to mock Jonathan Franzen with, so he and I are going to have to agree to disagree.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 7:37 PM on September 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


Metafilter: /closes tab
posted by Fizz at 7:39 PM on September 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


The proximate cause of my anger was my failure to have sex with an unbelievably pretty girl in Munich, except that it hadn't actually been a failure, it had been a decision on my part.

This is comedy gold.
posted by MetalFingerz at 7:39 PM on September 13, 2013 [9 favorites]


I agree with most of what Franzen says. He's making a kinda parallel with the self-absorption of fin de siecle Vienna and our modern times. We'll see how it turns. Hope I'm wrong.
posted by ovvl at 7:44 PM on September 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


the little Somerville apartment that my wife and I were renting for $300 a month
...$300 a month
...$300 a month
  ,_   __   __   __                                         
 /| |    | /  | /  |                               /    /   
(_|_  ___|(   |(   |      ___       _ _  ___  ___ (___ (___ 
  | )    )|   )|   )     |   )     | | )|   )|   )|    |   )
|_|/  __/ |__/ |__/      |__/|     |  / |__/ |  / |__  |  / 
  `                                                         
ಠ_ಠ
posted by en forme de poire at 7:50 PM on September 13, 2013 [11 favorites]


As much as it hurts me to say Franzen is right, he's right about the name of the IdeaPad and the Mac vs PC commercials. David Mitchell's pie charts is so adorable - I wouldn't read a novel about PC, but a short story, yes.
posted by betweenthebars at 7:56 PM on September 13, 2013


This fatuous twit should be eaten by feral cats.
posted by nicwolff at 8:05 PM on September 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


The definitive problem with the internet is that you kids are on my lawn.
posted by wotsac at 8:14 PM on September 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


He is right about the old Hodgeman/Long Apple ads. I could never imagine wanting to identify with Justin Long.
posted by octothorpe at 8:33 PM on September 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


So, if you think the author is hating the internet, I suggest you consider reading the article again with a bit more attention. There is nuance here. Skip to the last paragraph if you doubt me and, like me, find it hard to wade through long documents (especially prose that make no apology - embrace actually - Kraus' dense style). A lot of good points of view worth considering in the article. I especially appreciate his point that we've entered a Feudal period where a select few megalithic properties are monopolizing/sharecropping the product of individual intelligence with machine generated processes. Yesterday's dream of heaven is today's hell and the source for our hopes for tomorrow. It is great to live in an age when we cycle through the creative destructive cycle so quickly. Thanks for posting this article.
posted by astrobiophysican at 8:35 PM on September 13, 2013 [14 favorites]


I'm really mystified and disappointed with the reaction of the Metafilter community whenever the topic of Jonathan Franzen comes up. Considering all the hundred comment-long threads here about ecological destruction or the hollowing out of the middle class by economic forces that allow Amazon or Walmart to thrive, you would think that people here would be a lot more simpatico to Franzen's views. But instead it seems like every thread about him results in a bunch "OMG! OLD WHITE MAN DOESN'T LIKE TWITTER!" or "TL;DR /CLOSE TAB" comments.
posted by alidarbac at 8:38 PM on September 13, 2013 [12 favorites]


Well, one problem appears to be that he blends a lot of actual problems together with things he merely doesn't like, like Twitter or not getting laid in Germany.
posted by en forme de poire at 8:54 PM on September 13, 2013 [16 favorites]


Yeah, it builds up steam towards the end. Sorta like the world he's concerned about. There's several tangents there, and god forbid anyone endure a curmudgeon, but he's not really wrong, is the thing.
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:55 PM on September 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


If you complain about enough things you will be right about some of them.
posted by en forme de poire at 8:56 PM on September 13, 2013 [8 favorites]


I like Franzen's writing, generally. You can only admire a writer who has the guts to make such a complete fool of themselves in the service of their art (that Munich train station story!). But when he writes a piece like this it makes me wonder about his judgment. Does he really--can he possibly--think that "Macs are just toys for posers, PCs are for people who actually want to work" is an idea worth putting on paper in 2013? Merits of the argument aside, the mere fact that he apparently does think that "Crapple Suckintosh LOL" is fresh and daring territory suggests that his understanding of contemporary media culture is far less developed and far-ranging than he himself imagines it to be.
posted by No-sword at 9:01 PM on September 13, 2013 [10 favorites]


Guys, the problem with technology Franzen has is that it allows him to create Franzen novels. We should find a way to take that temptation away from him. Maybe if he has to use clay tablets he won't create any more novels.
posted by The Whelk at 9:01 PM on September 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


I HOPE EVERY LAST WARBLER DIES AND IT MAKES YOU SAD
posted by The Whelk at 9:06 PM on September 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm really mystified and disappointed with the reaction of the Metafilter community whenever the topic of Jonathan Franzen comes up.

It's because he writes crappy novels.

No, seriously, the problem is not the vapid technology-curmudgeon stance in itself, it's that he believes a few middlebrow bestsellers, books that only seem intellectual in comparison to an otherwise pretty vacuous American publishing mainstream, give him an otherwise unearned public-intellectual bully pulpit, anointing him the cultural conscience that nobody asked for. Like, Ann Patchett doesn't pull the Jiminy Cricket shtick, and so Ann Patchett doesn't deserve, or get, the same reception.
posted by RogerB at 9:15 PM on September 13, 2013 [11 favorites]


When Jonathan Franzen titles his op-ed piece "What's Wrong with the Modern World" he automatically forfeits any and all immunity from sarcastic bastards everywhere who, right before they click on the electronic link to read his words as pixels on a screen, take a moment to say "OooOOOOOoooh! Such an all-encompassing title! Do tell us all, Jonathan Franzen, in your own words, what, just precisely what is wrong with this Modern World of ours and please don't hold back for our sake."

Even if said bastards agree, to a point, with Franzen's fundamental substance-over-style argument, they'll still snark the hell out of this guy for his hubris. "What's Wrong with the Modern World" is not the name for a rambling set of complaints. It's the name of the manifesto a first-year college student writes when they realize they're holding both the water pipe and the solutions to all the world's problems, solutions which have to date eluded the smartest minds in history.

But I s'pose Franzen gets a lot of that snark and tunes it out with the same sneer he's been given. It takes a curmudgeon, etc.
posted by Spatch at 9:45 PM on September 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


He's not even that good a tech curmudgeon, with hus weird Amish style edict thst he'll go up to about Windows XP BUT NO FURTHER. WinXP Amish is a rubbish kind of Amish.
posted by Artw at 9:49 PM on September 13, 2013 [7 favorites]


I got Jonathan Frakes and Jonathan Franzen mixed up until just now and was wondering when Riker got so grumpy.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 9:58 PM on September 13, 2013 [13 favorites]


I know he's supposed to be a great novelist, and I feel like I should give him a try, but, damn, his public persona in essays reminds me of guys like David Brooks more and more, and there's so much high quality stuff that I really do want to read, not just feel like I should read to keep up with some index of culture, so, it's probably never going to happen.
posted by thelonius at 10:03 PM on September 13, 2013


remember when someone talked about killing birds because it might piss off franzen? that kind of reaction alone makes me think he might be on to something.
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 10:17 PM on September 13, 2013


I won't begrudge people their dislike of Franzen or his work. I agree with this essay at least as far as this goes: There was a period of a few years right as I was coming of age at the dawn of the modern Internet where it looked for a brief moment like life wasn't an utterly pointless struggle to live enough before the bombs fell or the world was finally used up. (cf. "The Rise of the New New Left") That moment in time slipped away, like a planet spinning off into the universe. Now I'm back to the feeling that instead of the plenty for all, freedom from hard labor, and exploration of space that humanity deserved, we'll be lucky to keep the lights on for my entire lifetime.
posted by ob1quixote at 10:27 PM on September 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


Well, people younger than us still get that experience of the chaotic, free Internet, in various ways, I think. But I agree that various interests worked real hard to make the Internet a more predictable, controllable consumer experience, and they have made some good progress on that, too.
posted by thelonius at 10:38 PM on September 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


RogerB, the other difference, of course, is that Ann Patchett is a woman.

I don't get Franzen; dozens of American writers have been writing books like that for decades, like Anne Tyler. And they don't need 800 pages to do it. Of course, they, too, are women, and when women write about families it seems we're not allowed to call it literature.
posted by smoke at 10:51 PM on September 13, 2013 [9 favorites]


It's basically an excerpt from a book about a long dead Viennese bourgeois culture critic who was known as The Great Hater in his time and that places that dead dude's work in our contemporary context (and Franzen's peculiar personal one, 'cause if the present ain't about exposing every blockhead's precious individuality, it ain't about anything) and all you people can manage to do is miss the point.

Well done.
posted by notyou at 11:01 PM on September 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


There's a lot to unpack here.

'We could have gone to Mars and instead we built Facebook' is how most of the beginning of his article is said in other circles, and it's a valid outlook. He then seems to tether this to one of the few questions left to philosophers and not obsolesced by neuroscience - whether beauty is moral - by launching into his personal experience of Steve Jobs' advertising campaigns.

It's entirely possible that the vapid youth sitting beside him in TriBeCa isn't considering his ancestors on his Macbook Air, and it's a legitimate concern. Is something removed from the human experience when we're endorphin-lost to each click-click of the next new page?

The human experience is changing. Cemeteries have been replaced by the Internet, comments left on loved one's memorial pages in place of flowers.

We need to say goodbye to job stability and hello to a lifetime of anxiety. We need to become as restless as capitalism itself.

Losing jobs to technology is also very real. You see its effects in headlines almost daily, although rarely as systemic. But, pick up an MIT Technology Review or go a few pages into Business Week and it's being discussed - technology has taken millions of jobs, and it is ceaseless. Think about when driverless cars remove long distance truck drivers altogether.

Franzen makes his way to literature, eventually, although it's a slow crawl. I (sort of) want to read Franzen because he thinks about things, but he pushes forward his personal navel gazing as final product. Reading this piece is interesting, somewhat, but even documentaries are distilled to deliver some truth of experience.

And the mental work that fiction fundamentally requires, which is to imagine what it's like to be somebody you are not, further undermines anger. The more I wrote novels, the less I trusted my own righteousness, and the more prone I was to sympathising with people like the typesetters at the Globe.

In all our connective-ness I think the new generation has in some ways been unable to engender empathy, and Franzen's own experience here is salient. It's difficult to pinpoint, but it's egregiousness is everywhere - 13 year olds calling in death threats like an elementary school was XBox Live, videos of naked teens sent in a moment of love to their laughing boyfriends who promptly post it online, maybe even the supposed "hookup" culture" of 20 somethings, wanting to connect but doing so in fast fleeting moments. Maybe they aren't abandoning courtship, they simply don't know how to get to know someone slowly.

Natural processes changed us, over time, more summers than winters, whether or not lactose was in our diet. Mostly a function of geography.

But now our evolution is being determined by technology.

At the end of his article you want to say, "Franzen, we know man. We know." We read the Economist and Foreign Affairs and we get it.

Child labour was once common, as was women not voting. We fought wars to maintain slaves. Our swerving path is full of detriment. Today, factory farming is absolutely at odds with our survival, yet if you mention not eating meat you're a dinner guest terrorist.

Impulses can eventually be diminished for the better as society changes - through violence, of course, but as Franzen is desperately trying to say also through literature and the transfer of complex ideas through writing.

He ends the article beautifully, but after reading all of it you wish he offered something in return to the reader, something to affect change too.
posted by four panels at 11:31 PM on September 13, 2013 [12 favorites]


This read a lot like the Rise of the Idiots
posted by joelf at 11:31 PM on September 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


"it's not like we all sat around reciting Chaucer and nursing baby animals back to health."

Actually I know a family who have 4 kids, 30 animals, and play Shakespeare and maths quizzes set by their father after dinner.
posted by colie at 12:43 AM on September 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


What a turgid and pointless rant; I couldn't force myself to finish it. Mac vs. PC? A dated metaphor from a windy curmudgeon.
posted by Agave at 12:52 AM on September 14, 2013


What is a PC?
posted by colie at 12:59 AM on September 14, 2013


TLDR.
posted by Paris Elk at 1:49 AM on September 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


I got to say this thread is one of the funniest I've read on metafilter in a while. I'm not a Franzen fan, but reading this thread made reading his tedious rant worth it.

I got Jonathan Frakes and Jonathan Franzen mixed up until just now and was wondering when Riker got so grumpy.

This had me crying....
posted by herda05 at 2:18 AM on September 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


'We could have gone to Mars and instead we built Facebook' is how most of the beginning of his article is said in other circles, and it's a valid outlook.

This is a valid outlook? Really, like the development of Facebook by an introverted Harvard dropout is the thing that derailed humanity's march to Mars? This is why people are making fun of Franzen's rant.

Even if said bastards agree, to a point, with Franzen's fundamental substance-over-style argument, they'll still snark the hell out of this guy for his hubris. "What's Wrong with the Modern World" is not the name for a rambling set of complaints. It's the name of the manifesto a first-year college student writes when they realize they're holding both the water pipe and the solutions to all the world's problems, solutions which have to date eluded the smartest minds in history.

This exactly. I would also add, the hubris of someone who has a shallow grasp of history and humanity in general. It's just intellectually lazy to use stereotypes as some shortcut to deeper analysis of the complex problems of modern technological society and he should be snarked for it.
posted by herda05 at 2:45 AM on September 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


'We could have gone to Mars and instead we built Facebook' is how most of the beginning of his article is said in other circles, and it's a valid outlook.

No, it's moronic. It's Jerry Pournelle saying in the seventies that if only all those dumb broads stopped buying lipstick and instead invested in space we would have a L5 space colony by 1980.
posted by MartinWisse at 3:09 AM on September 14, 2013 [6 favorites]


Actually I know a family who have 4 kids, 30 animals, and play Shakespeare and maths quizzes set by their father after dinner.

Hate them already; in thirty years those kids will write either insufferably smug articles about how wonderful special their childhood was or insufferably whiny novels about how they never got to live like normal kids.
posted by MartinWisse at 3:11 AM on September 14, 2013 [10 favorites]


Speaking of Vienna and hating on middle European, multi ethnic empires, you know who also hated the Austrian Hungarian fusion of Romanate and Germanic culture?

Exactly.
posted by MartinWisse at 3:23 AM on September 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


Mozart?
posted by Devils Rancher at 3:46 AM on September 14, 2013 [5 favorites]


The Kraus Project by Jonathan Franzen is published by Harper Collins on 1 October. To pre-order it for £15.19 with free UK p&p call Guardian book service on 0330 333 6846 or go to guardianbookshop.co.uk.


So all of this is an ad for JF's new book, available overnight (instant gratification!) and in e-versions via the usual suspects (AMZN, B&N, the Grauniad online bookshop a snip at 15 quid?)

This isn't even irony, it's, it's ... oh I don't know. A new word is required: franzeny?
posted by chavenet at 4:00 AM on September 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I wasn't a huge fan of this, but then I am not exactly Jonathan Franzen's market. He's writing for a different generation, the losing one, the one that's slowly but certainly dying out. You can tell that by his concluding paragraph, where he essentially admits that as long as the modern age continues to feel increasingly modern, there will always be men like him who feel like the world is coming to an end—even if it's not. And while he raises the bugbears of environmental disaster, nuclear war, etc etc, he also explicitly admits that these aren't his real concerns with the modern era, that his problems have much more to do with that increasing sensation he has that he's out of touch with the world around him.

To him I would respond that there's hope yet, that the introverts and quiet ones have found new places of their own. If he had a Twitter account I could soothe his troubled breast in a couple of 140-character tweets, in fact. Yet his self-alienation makes it difficult to de-alienate him, the poor miserable bastard.
posted by Rory Marinich at 4:24 AM on September 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


the little Somerville apartment that my wife and I were renting for $300 a month

*weeps openly*


This is not especially outrageous. I currently pay $360 for my current apartment, and we're hoping to drop that to below the $300 line within the year. And that's for a place that's 20 minutes away from New York City, and in a pretty great neighborhood of its own.

Wide swathes of America are relatively affordable, from what I've heard. It's just that nobody feels like going there. I've lived in a major American city where you can rent places in some of the most desirable parts of the city for $500 or lower per person, and where you can live in slightly quieter areas for $300 or below. Before I decided I wanted to be closer to NYC, I was looking at a place with my friend that would have been $150 for each of us, rent included. And it was a nice little place, too.
posted by Rory Marinich at 4:31 AM on September 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Hate them already; in thirty years those kids will write either insufferably smug articles about how wonderful special their childhood was or insufferably whiny novels about how they never got to live like normal kids.

David Foster Wallace, MeFi's patron saint, read Dean Koontz to his children and admitted a love of Tom Clancy. Low culture is an important part of every budding genius's raising.
posted by Rory Marinich at 4:34 AM on September 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sending people to Mars would be a pointless waste of huge resources we could be spending ensuring that our own planet stays hospitable. One among many such wastes, of course, but I'm pretty sure 'inventing Facebook' is waaaaay way down the list compared to, say, war, the oil industry, the finance industry, and the maintenance of a hyper-rich stratum. That's if you even accept that Facebook does more social harm than social good, which is very dubious.

The problems of the modern world, just like the problems of the historic world, are mostly caused by the distorting, imbalancing power of selfish elite classes, and Franzen is helping them in their long-running effort to shift the blame onto the supposed fecklessness and disconnection of the youth and the common person. He also has a stupid face. Like a camel.
posted by Drexen at 5:04 AM on September 14, 2013 [7 favorites]


you know who also hated the Austrian Hungarian fusion of Romanate and Germanic culture?

musil?
posted by pyramid termite at 5:57 AM on September 14, 2013 [7 favorites]


This essay is tone deaf. Mac versus PC is fundamentally not the same as Romantic versus German aesthetic. It's a sick joke that the PC was ever intended to be utilitarian, especially anything that came out of Microsoft - speaking as a software developer, Microsoft never gave a shit about whether or not stuff on its platform could be used, it would just try to build stuff that could conceivably used to do anything, divorced from practicality and use case, and then slavishly enforce backwards compatibility in its products to try to avoid pissing off developers that had trudged through the windows APIs and actually gotten programs build on a windows platform to do something useful. Comparing that to the German aesthetic is disgusting.
posted by Veritron at 5:58 AM on September 14, 2013


> Actually I know a family who have 4 kids, 30 animals, and play Shakespeare and maths quizzes set by their father after dinner.

Oh, the Tenenbaums! Nice people.
posted by The Card Cheat at 6:12 AM on September 14, 2013 [5 favorites]


Every time one of these ponderous, self-important opinion pieces lumber into my browser, I think...
posted by belarius at 6:13 AM on September 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


> I HOPE EVERY LAST WARBLER DIES AND IT MAKES YOU SAD

Every curse comes with a price. The price for this one is not only having to read J Franzen's clay-tablet novel but having to store it in your apartment. This happened to Greg nog! You have been warned.
posted by jfuller at 6:22 AM on September 14, 2013


David Foster Wallace, MeFi's patron saint, read Dean Koontz to his children

What?
posted by kingbenny at 6:52 AM on September 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Two Things:

David Foster Wallace, MeFi's patron saint, read Dean Koontz to his children

His dogs maybe, but you might want to check your source on that one...

Also, I've read pretty much everything Franzen has published. I like(d) him and his writing and thought he had a nice little thing going. But the weird bird obsession in Freedom was pretty obviously him ranting through a character, and since then everything he's written has left a really bad taste in my mouth. I thought he was smart enough to adapt and not spend all his days tilting at Mac Airs.
posted by nevercalm at 7:20 AM on September 14, 2013


It's funny; I read the comments before reading the article. Now that I'm reading the article, this line jumped out at me:

One of the worst things about the internet is that it tempts everyone to be a sophisticate – to take positions on what is hip and to consider, under pain of being considered unhip, the positions that everyone else is taking.

It feels like that's going on in this thread, for sure.
posted by Ickster at 7:24 AM on September 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


It feels like that's going on in this thread, for sure.

Also in JF's article.
posted by chavenet at 7:40 AM on September 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


.... until you become so self-reflexive you disappear up your own arse.
posted by temporicide at 8:10 AM on September 14, 2013


Briefly: "People don't obsess as much about the hard, hard lives of successful novelists as they should. We novelists have the unique burden of fretting about plastic furniture and voyages to Mars and amazon.com because nobody else cares, and it's just exhausting, and what thanks do we get? I'll tell you what thanks we get: when all those thousands and thousands of people buy my books about the constipated feelings of upper middle-class white people, the lousy ingrates don't even bother to do so in the dead-tree format I have clearly decreed is morally superior. Some of them probably even read my books on iPads, even though they know that this is more like a stake through my heart than the memory of that gorgeous girl in Munich I didn't have sex with."
posted by La Cieca at 8:15 AM on September 14, 2013 [12 favorites]


I think someone upthread may have said this already, but I too am starting to suspect that in certain circles the whole "oh, I don't have a Facebook/Twitter/etc" is the new "oh, I don't own a television."
posted by Kitteh at 9:59 AM on September 14, 2013


it's weird how all this talk about young people loving the twitters is being conducted mainly by people in their 30s and 40s but a lot of the people i know in my age cohort barely tolerate twitter and think facebook is garbage

also talking about how franzen is upper-middle class because he doesn't own an ikindle or whatever
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 10:01 AM on September 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


That $300 a month would have been in 1983, which makes it roughly equivalent to $680 in today's money.
posted by MUD at 10:59 AM on September 14, 2013


I'm usually not a fan of Franzen's nonfiction, but this piece is neatly done (or edited, assuming it's a piece from the book).

He starts in one place philosophically and rhetorically, but if you actually read to the end, he winds up in almost the opposite. It's admittedly a frustrating journey, full of emotions presented as facts, and false dichotomies, and at the end you wonder why Franzen has taken us through what amounts to his own personal intellectual journey. The essay parallels his own experience of reading Kraus, of angry-young-manhood, but he certainly could have made his points in a much briefer way.

Then you see that the piece itself is a microcosm of what he says saved him: the experience of understanding another person's experience through writing. Instead of simply making an argument, he writes a story, which is the story of how his intellectual evolution. And while I personally didn't identify with much of it, I did think it was interesting to read-- but then, I like to read stories.
posted by pocketfullofrye at 11:09 AM on September 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


I think the title of the article is also its own answer.
posted by yellowcandy at 12:28 PM on September 14, 2013


A 1br in Somerville for $680 is still ridiculously cheap by today's standards.
posted by en forme de poire at 12:49 PM on September 14, 2013


A 1br in somerville? Cambridge somerville or Medford somerville? (North of union = medford)

word up to satie btw
posted by Teakettle at 7:51 PM on September 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


My sense is either - you could probably get a room in an apartment for around that, but for an entire 1br I'd imagine you're going to be paying >$1,000.

Renting in the Boston, NYC and SF areas has been a source of... (puts on sunglasses) vexations
posted by en forme de poire at 11:35 PM on September 14, 2013


I'm really mystified and disappointed with the reaction of the Metafilter community whenever the topic of Jonathan Franzen comes up.

"The modern world: What's wrong with Jonathan Franzen".
posted by WalkingAround at 3:42 AM on September 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


Sorry, Artw, I don't talk during movies. :\
posted by anildash at 9:13 PM on September 15, 2013


Hilariously surreal take on this at The Toast.

Jonathan Franzen is the angriest novelist in the world. He is the novelist who is so angry he cannot move. He cannot eat. He cannot sleep. He can just barely growl. Bound so tightly with tension and anger, he approaches the state of rigor mortis.

He is angry because Salman Rushdie uses Twitter, and nowadays people can buy books on the Internet, and the Home Depot, and he had to go to Germany one time, and also some women exist who have not had sex with him.

posted by emjaybee at 8:54 AM on September 16, 2013 [5 favorites]


Jonathan Franzen, Come Join Us
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 3:39 PM on September 18, 2013


Jonathan Franzen and Clay Shirky Fight Over Their Girlfriend, the Internet
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 4:24 PM on October 8, 2013


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